Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Trade: Not an Obama Priority

ABC News reports:

Saying that he has come to the realization that trade is not the highest priority for the incoming Obama administration, Rep. Xavier Becerra has decided not to accept Barack Obama's offer to be United States Trade Representative, according to an interview the California Democrat gave to the editorial board of La Opinion, a Spanish-language newspaper in Los Angeles....

Becerra said, "My concern was how much weight this position [U.S. Trade Representative] would have and I came to the conclusion that it would not be priority No. 1, and perhaps, not even priority No. 2 or 3."

This was what worried me last March.

Update: A reader suggests that I misinterpreted this story. If trade had been a priority, the reader suggests, it would have a renegotiation of trade agreements and a retreat from free trade. So putting trade on a back burner is then good news.

Perhaps. But I suppose this means that Joe Biden will not be following in the footsteps of Al Gore, who as veep defended the Bush-negotiated NAFTA on nationwide TV. Recall that there are still several pending free trade agreements, including those with Colombia and South Korea. The incoming adminstration would boost business confidence, and maybe investment spending as well, if it made a clear commitment to get these treaties passed and to continue pushing for more open markets.